Introducing… The Minnetonka Monstars

Sam Bremer, Deputy Editor, Sports & Wellness

In the same way that it’s hard to think of Tom without Jerry, or Kobe without Shaq, it’s almost impossible to think of March without basketball. The two just go hand in hand. Or at least, they should. Unfortunately for the Minnetonka Skippers Men’s Team, the magic of March Playoff Basketball has been no more than a fantasy for 14 years since their last state championship run in 2008. Luckily for Tonka fans, the 2023 Skippers are fresh off of a 17-8 2022 campaign, and they are talented, experienced and ready to win this year.

While the 2022 season was full of positive outcomes for Minnetonka, it ended in a stunning home defeat to Prior Lake in the first round of the Section Playoffs. Although that loss stung, Varsity Head Coach Bryce Tesdahl said it “Motivated our guys in the off-season. Everyone remembers that loss, and we hope that we can improve on that result this season”. 

There are plenty of reasons to believe that the Skippers can improve on that result this season, starting with how the sophomores and juniors who led this team last year are coming back and leading this team as more experienced juniors and seniors. On top of the talent Tonka returns, Tesdahl says that in such a player driven game, veteran leadership is indispensable and Minnetonka finally has it. “We’ve got a bunch of guys who’ve played a lot of varsity minutes together, and they are able to fight through adversity together and make plays whenever we need them. You saw that on display on Friday Night [Minnetonka’s emotional Season Opener, an 88-81 win at Prior Lake]”.

It’s no secret that height is a big part of basketball, and unfortunately, this team doesn’t have it. A majority of Minnetonka’s personnel hovers around 6 feet tall and that lack of a true hulking big man (Tonka’s tallest player stands at only 6’4) proved to be an issue on plenty occasions in 2022, none more costly than the matchup with Prior Lake’s 6’8 Malcolm Jones in the playoffs. Tesdahl commented, “We’d love to have a 6’10 guy out there, but we just don’t have one. But our job as a coaching staff is to put a game plan together with what we have, and more often than not, we have 5 really good basketball players out there.” 

Minnetonka knows they have to adapt to their lack of size against most teams they will play, but at the same time, their shifty, sped up play style is a hard matchup itself. “They still have to guard us too. It’s not easy for a 6’8 guy to stay in front of a guy like Jalen or Jordan [Cain]. We’re gonna work with what we’ve got and try to make them adapt to us.” 

Another way Minnetonka wants to capitalize on their mobility is to speed teams up with pressure on defense, which is what they did to open the season at Prior Lake. “Teams are gonna have to play full court with us, and hopefully turn the ball over. Again, we don’t have the size to play in the half court so we gotta be creative in ways that will help put our guys in spots to succeed.” 

Tesdahl thinks that with growth and development throughout the season, playing “Smart, tough and together” can get this team a long way, hopefully long enough to end with another banner to hang in the West Gym. That won’t come from being a passive team though. As Tesdahl said, “We know where we want to get, but we also know that nothing is gonna be given to us. We gotta take it”.